John Gilbreath smiling in front of jazz art poster

John Gilbreath photo by Bill Uznay

There is a saying that we hear occasionally relating to artistic accomplishment in the jazz world: “When you reach the top, don’t forget to send the elevator back down.” Even though “the top” may be a nebulous, and even counterproductive, destination for any kind of personal accomplishment, especially in jazz, the metaphor resonates well here in Seattle.

Over the years, our community has stepped up so effectively for jazz education that it has become part of our civic value system. It’s almost a given that the subject of Seattle’s jazz education programs is treated with honest appreciation and mutual, if not abundant, support by the greater public. And hundreds of students are growing each year as a result. 

This month’s cover story highlights two sheroes of Seattle’s jazz education ecology. Fueling the jazz continuum on the ground level by focusing on “bravery over perfection,” Kelly Clingan and Beth Fortune have fortified the front lines of music education by working with students and teachers, both inside and outside of the established dynasties of our fabled high school and middle school programs, with a dedication to much-needed gender equity, wider inclusion, and more fun.

Jazz education is not just a forum for creating new professional musicians. The process is said to develop skills of self-awareness, discipline, confidence, and working in harmony with others so that each individual tangibly benefits the whole. The benefits of music studies are proven to translate across the sciences, mathematics, languages, social services, and even the law. And perhaps most importantly, jazz is a tangible link to the gifts of Black culture in our daily lives. As we’ve said here before, “no Black America, no jazz.”

Jazz is generous and generative. There are many stops between the ground floor and the top level, and the real juice is in these interstitials. This issue of Earshot Jazz shines a light on some of the artists, labels, and organizations that make this community so engaging. And, we include a calendar of live jazz performances so you can get out and draw your own conclusions. We look forward to seeing you out there!

Thank you for your support!

—John Gilbreath, Executive Director


Posted on

June 27, 2024